Far too long a time has elapsed since we, as a community, have eschewed the principles of knightliness and chivalry. As quaint and medieval as these terms sound today, the world would be a far better place were they to be re-instituted. It is, perhaps, ideological, or fanciful, to believe that these tenets would be accepted by all, but certainly they could be adopted by a small cadre of like-minded individuals. It would take a blend of religious underpinnings and a sincere belief in the ideals of a constitutional republic governed by democratic principles to mesh with current societal norms. However, it should be equally successful in constitutional monarchies and mono-theocratic institutions. The concept devolves from a set of customs and rituals connected with Medieval knighthood, stressing loyalty to God and king, fidelity to lady-loves, ready aid to victims of injustice, and opposition to monsters, giants, and tyrants. Mallory's Mort d'Arthur and Tennyson's Idylls of the King are examples by English writers.
The importance of a religious guide cannot be overstated. This bulwark of society contains the elements and pathways for the core spirit of man. The wisdom of the Good Book provides both the substance and pragmatism of a successful interaction with the corporeal world. It benefits the very nature of the soul and is a ready resource for staying on the path throughout our short journey in this life. Its moral compass functions as an internal beacon shining on the morality, respect and love espoused by the great Teacher.
The seeds are among us. Each day we experience singular kind acts, but we see many more perverse displays of selfish behavior. We read about great deeds of heroism and gallantry with exceptional instances of valiancy. This inner sacrifice must be engendered not only on the battlefield but also within our hearts, families, businesses, and brought to the very street corners of our communities.
There is so little time that any of us have on the planet that we should endeavor to surround our lives with all that is good. There is much ugliness that passes for culture that it causes us to forget our ideals and purpose in life.
Professionals live by a code of ethics. So too, should we develop a personal code of ethics, based in part, on what has come before, around which
we can create a more refined world within which we live, work and play. As gentlemen we need to introduce the concept of politesse into the modern setting. Gallant behavior is attentiveness and courtesy; not pandering for unethical or immoral reasons. And good manners, not only to women, but to everyone, is never out of style. It is pleasing what a kind smile and friendly nod of the head will elicit from a casual encounter.
Chivalry refers to the medieval institution of knighthood, and most especially, the ideals that became associated with it throughout literature. It is also often associated with the ideals of the knightly virtues of honor and courtly love. It demanded a code of behavior (ethics) for knights, based on telling the truth, keeping one's word and protecting those weaker than oneself.
It became the collective term for the social codes of knighthood that originated in France in the Middle Ages. It was based on brave, courteous and honorable behavior– what came to be known as 'gentlemanly conduct' – and was the subject of much medieval literature. Orders of knighthood, such as the Knights of the Garter, are called 'chivalric' orders. In fact, there are a few extant orders of knighthood that persist today. A few date from the Middle Ages such as the Knights of Malta and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. The Knights and Dames of these orders strive to live the aforementioned principles on a daily basis.
Additionally, knights represented the collective term for people recognized by the society as possessing prowess in heavy weapons combat along with possessing chivalric virtues. Of course, the military side stemmed from the Crusades. Just as knights of yore swore fealty to the government in the guise of the Crown, the modern military officer swears an oath of allegiance to defend his country from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Many modern military officers could produce a supply of postulants who already possess the requisites of the code of behavior associated with medieval knighthood: bravery, courtesy, honor, fidelity, and defense of the weak; and, the charitable Christian activities of modern orders of chivalry or knighthood based on such traditional principles.
A knight's code of honor covering such things as social, religious and moral ideals became of great value and an ideal by which to guide one's life.
Last Update: May 7, 2009